We have had the fortune of attending many house concerts and have also hosted many. As an organiser we have also curated house concerts. My observations may sound funny or too harsh but be assured that I am writing about what I have witnessed without deviation of any kind.
Well planned everything else than music:
Some hosts go greatly out of their way and love playing the ideal host. From almond biscotti to khari to that fancy cookie brought from the nearest bakery; you can have your crisis of choice right before the concert. However there is no planning as regards music. You will mostly hear mediocre or sub-standard music and feel highly disappointed. What went wrong when everything else was planned in such detail – why not the music? The whole experience lacks the joy of spontaneity or the satisfaction of well-preparedness.
Hosts should not shy away from seeking help to organise what they truly want. Seek artist suggestions openly and listen to the artist live once before you book them for your house concert.
State clearly; why you wish to organise a house concert? What do you like to listen to? Do you like a particular style or you appreciate the effort of a particular artist? What would you like to understand by listening? Sometimes even making suggestions may also be helpful. Like suggest a couple of ragas or compositions. Ask artist not to repeat what they have sung/played before etc.
Everything too loud:
Some hosts like it loud in all ways possible. They will go over-board with decorations, use bold colours, hand-over big bouquets, talk loudly, give long introductions keep music volumes high. How can you miss the long vote of thanks! A sense of proportion is felt necessary when the chamber concert becomes a show-off of wealth or privilege.
Zero understanding of artist’s needs:
A host will plan for thick beds for artists, keep the AC at a temperature that it becomes freezing cold and organise for food just before the music. To inform the hosts about requirements is the responsibility of the artists too but somewhere you start wondering why that kind of conversation never happened. Maybe the artist is too shy, maybe the host feels that putting soft beds is comfortable than hard carpet but why nobody clarified before the event?
Coming late and being casual:
Unfortunately, I have seen artists come just 5 minutes before the scheduled performance time, hurry the tuning of instruments, absolutely no sound check etc.! They may take a big festival very seriously but a small house concert is not worth their attention. Many artists (especially vocalists) don’t carry acoustic tanpuras; even if they carry don’t spend good time tuning them well and just belt out ragas after ragas. More bothered about how they look (visually) than how they sound there is an air of superiority around them; especially when the host is a new listener of Indian Classical Music.
Lack of punctuality and respect:
Well, one can be relaxed in a chamber concert but that does not mean lack of punctuality or sincerity. Artists cannot decide that they will come late. Hosts cannot say that they will start 20 minutes late as some of their favourite people have not joined yet. The event may not end on time and people may choose to walk out in between the music but can this be done decently without disturbing the artist? As the group is small even the slightest of the movement is noticed and can be disturbing; imagine if you say ‘ this is getting too long for me, I will leave now’ and everyone including the artists hear this!
Too much focus on photography/videography:
Music is an auditory medium…isn’t it? Thus it is highly important that a space where music is to be presented need to be acoustically decent if not the best. An increasing focus on video documenting events makes it a visual affair than an auditory one. You have black backdrop, bright lights, then standees and holders of various kinds which mostly block views for the physically present audience. I had even experienced a photographer coming close to my shoulder and clicking some 15/20 shots till I gave him an angry look which he did not register at all and continued running around and clicking pictures. You may click few pictures and few videos and isn’t that good enough? Also is the physically present audience and their experience your last priority?
Lack of cellphone etiquettes:
Ringing cellphones can be far more disturbing in a chamber concert than in an auditorium. Some audiences also go live and keep chatting with online friends while the music is being presented. I also feel recording in a private event without the permission of the artists and the hosts is not acceptable. Some people keep clicking pictures of themselves and the audience and that can be very annoying. Some people even pass their gadgets and ask the person the in the front row to record.
Written by – Dakshayani Athalye
2 replies on “The reality of house concerts”
You have very well put up the points. We also do organize house baithaks .Fortunately all the artists which we had featured had maintained the seriousness of the baithaks and gave full justice . 90% of the hosts were very generous in terms of providing us the necessary essentials and making the baithak successful.
There are discrepancies at times which does occur and we remember one such baithak where it was clubbed with some other occasion (independent of the performance venue) but the hosts were not present and we had difficulties to organize.
Here i have mentioned in the perspective of an organizer , where there were 3 entities functioning , 1) Artists 2) Hosts 3) Organizers. Where the organizer mediates and supervises the entire process and ensures that the purpose is justified.
As a performer , yes I have had few experiences where especially about the sitting and the AC arrangements.
The article essentially points out the discrepancies which one might encounter. Thank you for bringing the same into notice.
Analytical, elaborate and Bold.just like Gwalior Gharana presentation.